Genetic Chaos

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Koryaks and Itel’men: Population Replacement in the Okhotsk Sea–Bering Sea Region During the Neolithic

In this study, we analyzed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in 202 individuals representing one Itel’men and three Koryak populations from different parts of the Kamchatka peninsula. All mtDNAs were subjected to high resolution restriction (RFLP) analysis and control region (CR) sequencing, and the resulting data were combined with those available for other Siberian and east Asian populations and subjected to statistical and phylogenetic analysis. Together, the Koryaks and Itel’men were found to have mtDNAs belonging to three (A, C, and D) of the four major haplotype groups (haplogroups) observed in Siberian and Native American populations (A–D). In addition, they exhibited mtDNAs belonging to haplogroups G, Y, and Z, which were formerly called ‘‘Other’’ mtDNAs. While Kamchatka harbored the highest frequencies of haplogroup G mtDNAs, which were widely distributed in eastern Siberian and adjacent east Asian populations, the distribution of haplogroup Y was restricted within a relatively small area and pointed to the lower Amur River–Sakhalin Island region as its place of origin. In contrast, the pattern of distribution and the origin of haplogroup Z mtDNAs remained unclear. Furthermore, phylogenetic and statistical analyses showed that Koryaks and Itel’men had stronger genetic affinities with eastern Siberian/east Asian populations than to those of the north Pacific Rim. These results were consistent with colonization events associated with the relatively recent immigration to Kamchatka of new tribes from the Siberian mainland region, although remnants of ancient Beringian populations were still evident in the Koryak and Itel’men gene pools.

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